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U-M's cityscape will test driverless vehicles

  • Contact David Lampe, 734-647-7768,

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ANN ARBOR—A 32-acre "mini-city" designed expressly for testing connected and automated vehicle systems, and other emerging 21st-century smart city technologies, is taking shape on the University of Michigan's North Campus.

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Called M City, the one-of-a-kind facility will include a network of roads with up to five lanes, intersections, roundabouts, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, bus facilities, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles like construction barriers.

"Connected and automated vehicle technology will usher in a revolution in the mobility of people and goods comparable to that sparked by the introduction of the automobile a century ago," said Peter Sweatman, director of U-M's Mobility Transformation Center. "M City will allow us to rigorously test new approaches in a safe, controlled and realistic environment before we implement them on actual streets."

M City is being built under the auspices of the Mobility Transformation Center, a partnership with industry and government to lay the foundations for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated mobility. A key goal of the U-M initiative, which involves researchers from a wide range of disciplines across campus, is to implement a connected and automated mobility system on the streets of southeastern Michigan by 2021.

The MTC is also developing on-roadway deployments of more than 20,000 cars, trucks and buses across southeastern Michigan to serve as testbeds for evaluating consumer behavior and exploring market opportunities.

"Connected" means that vehicles talk to each other and to elements of the infrastructure, according to a nationally defined standard of quality and reliability.

Connected vehicles anonymously and securely exchange data—including location, speed and direction—with other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure via wireless communication devices. This data can warn individual drivers of traffic tie-ups or emerging dangerous situations, such as a car slipping on ice around an upcoming curve, or a car that may be likely to run a red light ahead.

"Automated" vehicles are equipped with new systems of situation awareness and control that increasingly replace elements of human response and behavior. Such vehicles respond automatically to traffic situations by activating certain driving functions, such as acceleration, braking or steering. The highest level of automation allows for cars to be driverless.

The convergence of connected and automated technologies accelerates the transformational power, reliability and deployment of a new system of mobility services for people and freight.

When implemented on a large scale, systems of connected and automated vehicles can dramatically improve safety, relieve traffic congestion, cut back on emissions, conserve energy and maximize transportation accessibility.

Designed and built in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation, M City's roadway construction was completed in December. The facility will be operational in the spring and a formal opening is planned for July.


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